Can Clarke beat the captain's curse and win big again?
Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke is hoping his appointment as European Ryder Cup captain can improve his on-course performance, starting at this week’s Joburg Open in South Africa. But can he overcome the weight of responsibility and win again before he joins the Senior Tour? It's something that few have managed.

The bad news for the 2016 European skipper is that the odds are stacked against him winning again before the turns 50 in August 2018 and becomes eligible for the Champions Tour as a major winner.

Of the 12 men who have captained Europe since players from the Continent joined Great Britain and Ireland in 1979, none have gone on to win a regular tournament on one of the world's main tours — so far.

Sam Torrance, the winning captain in 2002, won the 2006 Hassan II Golf Trophy but nothing on the main European Tour. 

Bernhard Langer, the 2004 skipper, won the WGC-World Cup with Marcel Siem in 2006 and came close on the PGA Tour in 2007, losing out in a playoff in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.  He was also in the top 10 at the Masters last year.

Mark James, a losing captain at Brookline in 1999, would win a team event before joining the senior tour but it's clear that only a handful of American legends have managed to win a regular tour event after skippering a Ryder Cup team.

Tom Watson won four times in the wake of his successful 1993 captaincy at The Belfry, claiming the 1996 Memorial and the 1998 Colonial on the PGA Tour as well as the 1994 Skins Game and the 1997 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.

Lee Trevino won the Dunlop British Masters at Woburn in the June before the 1985 Ryder Cup in the UK but he never won again on the PGA Tour though another 39 Champions Tour wins would follow.

Jack Nicklaus, 20 years after his last major win, in 2006

Jack Nicklaus, 20 years after his last major win, in 2006

The daddy of them all is, unsurprisingly, Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46, three years after his first captaincy. However, he won nothing as a regular tour player after his second stint as captain in 1987, when Eamonn Darcy and Co won at Muirfield Village.

Like Watson, who came so close to winning The Open in Turnberry in 2009, frustrated 1989 US captain Raymond Floyd won on the Japan Tour in 1991 and on the PGA Tour at Doral in 1992 having lost a playoff for the Masters to Nick Faldo in 1990. He also lost the Byron Nelson Classic in four way playoff in 1992.

Tom Lehman won the Argentine Masters in 2009, three years after his 2006 defeat as captain at The K Club. He came close to winning on the PGA Tour just a month before that Ryder Cup but lost to Dean Wilson in a play-off for The International.

Of course, many European captains have been prolific on the senior circuit with Langer counting four Majors among his 25 senior wins. He was also tied eighth in the 2014 Masters Tournament.

How Ryder Cup captains fare on tour after the battle

2014Paul McGinley0N/ATom Watson00
2012José María Olazábal0N/ADavis Love2 (as a
2010Colin Montgomerie05Corey Pavin01
2008Nick Faldo00Paul Azinger00
2006Ian Woosnam06Tom Lehman19
2004Bernhard Langer4 team (incl 
World Cup)
25Hal Sutton00
2002Sam Torrance111Curtis Strange00
1999Mark James1 (team)7 (incl
2 team)
Ben Crenshaw01 (team)
1997Seve Ballesteros00Tom Kite010
1995Bernard Gallacher01Lanny Wadkins01
1993Bernard Gallacher""Tom Watson4 (2 on 
PGA Tour)
24 (incl
9 team)
1991Bernard Gallacher""Dave Stockton03
1989Tony Jacklin02Raymond Floyd2 (incl 1 
in Japan)
33 (incl 
11 team)
1987Tony Jacklin""Jack Nicklaus021 (incl
10 team)
1985Tony Jacklin""Lee Trevino039 (incl
5 team)
1983Tony Jacklin""Jack Nicklaus2 (inc
1 major)
1981John Jacobs00Dave Marr00
1979John Jacobs00Billy Casper09

Colin Montgomerie has already won five senior events, including a couple of Majors, which bodes well for Paul McGinley, or indeed Clarke.

The Dungannon man is just 46 and fitter than he's ever been. And with the senior tour a long way away yet, he's hoping to recapture his best form.

“Obviously my own competitive instincts haven't been too good of late and the captaincy might actually be a blessing in disguise in terms of my golf because it will take my mind away from practising too hard and I'll have a lot of things to focus on,” Clarke said.

“Hopefully it will help me play a little bit better. Certainly this year, I don't think the captaincy will make an awful lot of difference, but I would imagine next year it would make a big difference in my playing schedule.”

Given his form as a player, it would be foolish to rule out another Clarke win before he hits the over 50s. he won the Open out of the blue in 2011 and has come close to winning since then, despite the fact that he his now 470th in the world and his last top 10 finish came in an obscure OneAsia Tour event in China more 16 months.

Though it was beyond the great Seve Ballesteros, there are players of Clarke calibre who've managed to get themselves back into the winner's circle.

In June 2010, a few months before the matches at Celtic Manor, 49-year old US skipper Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank (46) made a three-way playoff for the Travelers Championship which went to Bubba Watson.

Tom Lehman won the Argentine Masters in 2009, three years after his captaincy. He came close to winning on the PGA Tour just a month before the Ryder Cup at The K Club but lost The International in a play off to Dean Wilson.

Langer, of course, has been prolific since tiurning 50 in August 2007, counting four senior majors among his 25 senior wins. He was also tied eighth in the 2014 Masters Tournament.